FFfAW: Achilles Heels

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Photo (c) Yinglan

Achilles Heels

“Flowers? I hate flowers.”

“But…but all girls like flowers.

“And that is your first mistake. I am not ‘all girls’. Besides I am allergic to flowers.

“I am sorry. Next time I will get chocolates.”

“Chocolates are very fattening. They give me a migraine too.

“Umm so what should I get?”

“Why should you get something for me? What do you want in return?

“Me? Nothing. I was just…”

“Just what?”

“Why are you so suspicious?”

“Because no one ever does anything just like that?”

“You are such a cynic.”

“Yeah so? Got a problem with that? I didn’t ask you to stay.”

“Fine I am leaving.”

“Good riddance…”

“I heard that. And just for that I am not leaving.”

“You were looking for an excuse weren’t you? Why do you put up with me?”

“I also wonder. You are one the most annoying persons I have met.”

“I did warn you that I am a very difficult person.”

“One whom I cannot live without.”

“What do you know?”

“Let’s go shopping.”

“Shopping? I don’t much care…”

“Shoe shopping.”

“Shoes?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t need shoes.”

“Okay.”

“Well maybe I could just look at them.”

***

Written for FFfAW challenge – a story in 175 words or less (I confess to overshooting the mark this week to 194 words 😦 ). Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting this challenge and Yinglan for the beautiful photo. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – XI

The final part!

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions

 

Chapter 11: Will She Won’t She

Sonu flinched but rallied.

“Fine.” He nodded. “I’ll wait until you know. But,” he shook a finger at her, “But be prepared to be pestered for the rest of your life.” He warned. “Once I get a bee in my bonnet,” he shrugged. “Anyway would you like to see a movie?”

“Movie?” She was thrown. “What movie?”

“I was thinking the latest Ant-man movie.”

“I don’t like these stupid action sci-fi type of movies.”

“Have you seen any Ant-man movie?”

“I haven’t seen any.” Lovely admitted. “But I don’t…”

“So how can you say you don’t like them?” Sonu challenged.

“That’s neither here not there,” Lovely was exasperated, “I am not interested…”

“That’s your problem,” Sonu leaned back, “you are a stick in the mud.”

“What!” Lovely was affronted. “How dare…?”

“But of course! Even though you haven’t never eaten something before,” he indicated the untouched plate of tortillas between them, “or seen something you already know that you don’t like it,” he mocked. “No spirit of adventure at all.”

“You have absolutely no idea of what or who I am!” Lovely shot back. “And don’t you dare question my spirit of adventure. Have you tried paragliding?” she sneered. “I bet not.”

“And you have?”

“Of course. River rafting, rappelling, kayaking and even jumping off the cliff.” She ticked them off on her fingers with a semblance of animation. “Adventure sports give me such an adrenaline rush! I still have to do the flying fox and bungee jumping.”

“That’s what I am giving you a chance at,” he slipped in slyly, “bungee jumping, in fact a whole range of adventure sports.”

She frowned puzzled. “Apart from being a wedding planner you are running an adventure sports unit or what?”

“Actually I am terrified of adventure sports,” he confessed, “I had a narrow escape during a school trip while river rafting. I fell off and I didn’t know swimming.” He paused. “I still don’t know swimming. In fact I am terrified of the water.”

“Then?”

“Isn’t marriage like bungee jumping? Or for that matter like any of the adventure sports?”

She looked at him resignedly. “Are we back to that?”

“Yes. And I will keep coming back to it until you agree.”

“And then what? Move on to another unattainable toy?”

“Oh so that’s your problem!” He said with dawning understanding. “You think once we get married, I’ll forget about you and ignore you.”

She looked uncomfortable. “Partly. Yes.”

“So how about living in?”

“Oh my God.” Lovely clapped a hand to her head. “You don’t give up do you?”

“Nope. Not while I am alive and kicking.”

“Fine.” She crossed her arms. “And I won’t give in. Let the battle begin.”

Sonu rubbed his hands in glee. “Shall we begin with tortilla and Ant-man?”

She laughed. “You are incorrigible.”

He scratched his head. “What’s incorrigible?”

“It means…”

“Does it mean you love me?”

“You are impossible!”

“Nothing’s impossible.” He grinned. “Except for me.”

“And you are insufferable and arrogant.”

“Rubbish!” He denied. I am very humble and down to earth. Should we begin with tortilla and Ant-man?”

Lovely shook her head. “That would be too easy.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll have to begin with learning how to swim and then graduate to bungee jumping.”

“Whew.” He moped his brow. “And if I do, will you marry me?”

She rolled her eyes and looked away.

“Fine!” He threw down his napkin. “I’ll do it. But on condition.” He put his hand on the table palm up. “When I jump off the cliff you’ll hold my hand.”

She slid her hands under the table.

He shrugged. “Fine. I’ll just change the rules then.” He scrolled through his phone.

“Rules? What rules?”

“Rules of the game.”

“Are we playing a game?”

“Of course.” He looked up from his mobile. “One of the world’s most age-less time-less games.” Her eyes dropped before his.

“Okay and done!” He put down his phone. “I just enrolled myself for swimming classes.”

“Good.” She made a move to get up.

“Do you dance?” He wasn’t finished.

“Dance?” she frowned. “Where did that come from?”

“Never mind.” He said impatiently. “Just answer me.”

“I learned some Kathak in school. I even gave a stage performance in school.”

“That’s great. So you like dancing?”

“I guess.” She said warily.

“While I learn swimming, you will learn dancing.”

“Why?”

“Why not?” Argued Sonu. “Dancing is a great stress buster. It frees you and relaxes you. And the best part? I will learn along with you.”

She stared. “You’ll learn Kathak?”

“Not Kathak! Western dance rumba jive salsa,” he coughed, “Waltz.”

“You think you are very smart don’t you?”

“I don’t think.” He looked modest. “I am.”

“Well I am smarter than you.” She picked up her bag. “Thank you but no thank you.” She stood up.

“All those questions you asked?” He didn’t look up from his phone. “The ones we didn’t have an answer to?” She dropped her bag and sat down. “I think they apply to you as well.”

“What do you mean?” She frowned.

“I think you are also part of this system, this society. Even though you are being given a chance you are refusing to take it. You also blame yourself. You also think you are impure and you are unworthy of marrying.”

She paled. “Rubbish.” She said weakly.

“Is it?” He pressed home his advantage. “If it was a broken bone, an otherwise kind of a physical assault would you have been so traumatized?”

“You don’t understand.” She spoke through stiff lips.

“Perhaps. Make me understand. Isnt that why you want to be an IAS officer? To help women get justice? To liberate them to free them? How will you do that if you yourself aren’t free? If you stop yourself from moving on, going ahead with your life…”

“You don’t understand…”

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you want to change the world, first change yourself.”

“Change myself how?” Her eyes shot daggers. “By marrying you? You think marriage is the solution to everything?”

“Not everything. Something. And change doesn’t happen overnight.” He looked at her. “I am not asking you to marrying me tomorrow or next month or even next year. I am just asking you to take that one little step,” he paused, “with me.” He broke off a piece of the tortilla and held it out. “Try it.” When she hesitated, he insisted. “Trust me.” he paused. “At least in this.”

She accepted the gauntlet and popped into her mouth. She chewed experimentally even as he flashed her a confident triumphant smile. “Nice isn’t it?”

She downed a glass of water and shook her head. “On the contrary, quite awful.”

She almost laughed at his crestfallen expression. But he quickly rallied. “So fine you don’t like it but I am sure you’ll like tacos. They are…”

“Oh please Sonu!” Lovely raised a hand. “Could we have some decent old-fashioned Indian food? I am starving.”

“Sure.” He beamed. “But for dessert you must have their cheesecake. Have you had it?” She shook her head. “It’s out of the world.” He drooled.

“Better than jalebis?”

“Jalebi is your favorite?”

She shook her head. “No. In fact I don’t like them at all.”

He stared. “Then?”

“I was just trying to understand how bad this cheesecake would be.” There was a glint in her eyes.

“Very smart.” He gave her a resigned look. “Just wait until you try the cheesecake. You can change my name if you don’t like it.”

She tapped her cheek. “Hmm let me see…”

He leaned back in his chair. “No rush. Take your time. You have an entire lifetime to think up names for me.”

“Why waste an entire lifetime?”

His chair scraped. “If you think it would be a waste then may as well forget it.”

“Giving up so easily?” Her voice was low.

He stilled.

She drew in a deep breath. “I meant it for you.” At his puzzled look, she continued. “Why waste your entire life on a…a…a lost cause?”

His lips twisted. “You think I am doing this for you?”

She nodded.

“I am flattered that you think so highly of me.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“That you think I could be so self-sacrificing and caring about others.” He shook his head. “Sorry to break your illusions darling, but I care only and only about myself and my feelings.” He leaned forward. “I am not proposing to you because I am concerned about you, your feelings your future. Nope. It’s all about me. What I will do without you.”

She looked at him helplessly, drawn despite herself. She stiffened.

“Big words.” She jeered. “Easy to say, easier to forget.”

“You are a tough nut aren’t you?”

“And difficult to be with.” She added.

“And selfish and self-centered.”

Hurt flashed in her eyes before blanking out. “I don’t get where you get that from.”

“From this.” He gestured between them. “You are just concerned about your feelings the possible impact if some eventuality happens in the distant future. What about me?”

“What about you?”

“What about my feelings? What about the impact of your rejection on my present?”

She rolled her eyes. “Stop dramatizing.”

“And you lack empathy too.”

“I do not.” She was cut.

“Just because you cannot see my broken, wounded heart, just because I am not crying, you think I am fibbing, joking.” He paused. “What else can I do when my life is slipping out of my hands right in front of my eyes?”

“I am not convinced.” But she was shaken at the look in his eyes.

“If you insist.” He nodded briskly. “I will wait until you admit it.”

“Admit what?”

“That you love me.”

Her eyes flew to his. She stiffened and glared at him. “Don’t you think you are presuming too much?”

He shrugged. “I am no fool madam. And neither are you. If you didn’t love me, you would have walked away long ago and I would be nursing a broken jaw.”

Her lips twitched.

“So,” he smiled, “I will wait until you are ready to say it.”

“What if I never say it?”

“There is no end to what ifs.” He waved his hands impatient. “Shall we go?”

She looked at her watch. “Oh. Yes it is very late.” She stood up.

“If we hurry we can still catch Ant-man.”

“Ant-man?! I thought we were going home!”

“Soon. Very soon.” His eyes were warm.

She blushed and looked away. “But I am warning you that I am not going to join any dance classes.”

“Hey! A deal is a deal!”

“Deal?” she was incredulous. “What deal? I never agreed to any deal.”

“You will.” He was confident.

“You are pushy.”

“So are we back to character analysis?” He waved a hand. “Be my guest, but let me warn you it is a waste of time if you are looking for shortcomings and faults.”

“And brash and audacious.”

“Perhaps just the tiniest bit.” He admitted.

“Overbearing and overconfident.”

“Confident not overconfident.”

“Overconfident.”

“Confident.”

Their voices faded into the distance.

*** The Beginning***

Thank you for reading and especially for sharing your thoughts 🙂

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – IX

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

 

Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

“What do you mean?” He spoke over her head. When she didn’t reply he put his hands over her shoulders and attempted to turn her around. But she threw off his hands and jerked away eyes flashing. “Don’t you dare touch me!”

“What’s the matter Jigs?” He was more concerned than hurt at her reaction. “Something happened in college right?”

“You don’t know anything.” Her lips were frozen and the words came from a distance.

“I don’t.” he agreed. “But you can tell me. I promise I won’t judge you. I’ve also had affairs in the past, I have also had my heart broken, and it is all right. I understand.” He reassured her.

“You don’t understand!” her voice was scratchy and hoarse as she restrained herself from shouting. “You could never understand because you are a man, a privileged and superior class who sets the rules but is answerable to none.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you think?” She nodded at his dawning look of horror and disgust. “I was raped.” She gave a bitter laugh. “Cat got your tongue?” She picked up her bag. “I’m leaving.”

In a flash he barred the door. “This conversation isn’t finished yet. I don’t believe you. I think you are just saying that to get me off your back.”

“Isn’t that reason enough to back off?” She snarled. “That is another reason I would never consider associating with you, leave aside marrying you. You don’t believe me.” She shook her head. “Why do you think I would say such a thing? What purpose would it serve? Or do you think men don’t rape and women beg to be raped?”

Sonu’s eyes dropped before the anger and accusation in her eyes. “I’m sorry.” He backed away. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s…it’s not that I don’t trust you,” he fumbled to clear himself, “I just said the first thing that came into my head to stop you from leaving.”

“Which also doesn’t speak high of you.” Lovely was pale but composed. “Good thing I didn’t tell you who raped me for then you would certainly never believed me.” She attempted to brush past him but he didn’t budge.

“I said I am sorry.” He apologized. “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. I promise I will believe you. You are right. Why would you say such a thing if it wasn’t true? I really am sorry.” He held his ears.

Lovely moved away and sat down before her legs gave way. “It doesn’t matter.” She shook her head tiredly. “I am sorry I said it. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to marry. Seriously. Can’t you respect that and let me go?” She raised anguished eyes to him.

He took the chair across her. “I respect you and anything you say and want. If you don’t want to marry me, I swear I will back off. But please just explain to me why or how this…this…”

“Rape. You can’t even say it can you? Because you don’t actually believe it happens to women. You think they ask for it, they enjoy it and when things don’t work out the way they want, they scream rape. Isn’t it?”

“No it’s not that. At least not entirely. My reaction is more of a denial rather than an accusation against you. I deny it because I am not strong enough to accept the alternative. That someone deliberately physically violate you hurt you and scar you for life.” She looked away from the raw anguished honesty in his eyes.

“Forget it.” She withdrew. “I don’t really blame you for not believing. I…I also had trouble believing.” Her voice shook and wavered. “That it wasn’t my imagination, that it wasn’t my fault, that I didn’t ask for it, that I didn’t deserve it.” She broke down completely.

Sonu’s chair scraped as he stood up and paced the floor. He crossed his arms to physically stop himself from gathering her into his arms. He could only ineffectually exhort her over and over again, “Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. Please. I can’t bear to see you like this. Please!” There was a crash as he swept a pile of files off the table.

She sobered and sat sniffling. He held out a glass of water. She drank some and wiped her face. She was back to her composed self. “I’m sorry for breaking down like this. I thought I had got over it.” She excused herself.

“Who was it? Tell me.” His eyes burned into hers as he sat down again. “Tell me.” He insisted.

“What does it matter? What will you do? Kill him?”

“I want to.” He clenched his fists. “Someone in college? Did you love him?”

She sat still except for the twisting of her kerchief into a knotted mass. When she spoke her voice was faint and he had to strain to hear her. “I loved him very much. I idolized him. I trusted him with my life. If anyone else had accused him of such a dastardly act, I would have scratched her eyes out.”

Fury and jealousy tore into Sonu. “Who was it?” he was harsher than he wished to be.

When she didn’t reply he had an overwhelming urge to shake her and force her to speak. But this wasn’t about him. It was about her. Quelling down on his impatience anger and despair, he put her first and waited.

“It wasn’t…wasn’t in college.” She said jerkily. “It was after school and before I went to college.” She said skirting around the issue. Sonu opened his mouth and shut it. He didn’t want to risk putting her off completely.

“It was at home.”

“Home?”

“You do know 98% of rapes are by men who are known to victims?”

“That’s not possible!” Sonu instantly denied.

“It’s a fact!” her eyes flashed. “You can Google if you want.” Lovely shouldered her bag and stood up. “I don’t think there’s any point in continuing this conversation. You aren’t ready to listen.”

“You are right. I am in denial. But I am ready to hear you out. I promise.” He pulled at the skin over his throat in a childish gesture. “I won’t judge you or disbelieve you. And if I do, feel free to leave. I won’t stop you, I promise. Please sit.” He indicated the chair behind. “Who was it? A neighbor?”

“After school finished, I went home to stay with my grandparents. At that time, they weren’t staying with Chacha Chachi. My grandparents had an acrimonious relationship, which soured even more after their son’s death. One day they had a particularly bitter fight and I was forced to intervene. He was hitting Dadi with his stick. When pushed Dadi who hit her head on the wall, I screamed at him and threatened to call the police. So he taught me a lesson in obedience and respect for elders. He tied a dupatta around my mouth and raped me in front of Dadi.”

Sonu’s eyes were dark pools of shock and horror.

“Dadi hushed it all up. She threatened me with dire consequences if I went about spreading vicious lies about her husband. They would have me thrown into jail where I would rot until death. As soon as I was able, I packed my things and moved into a PG and later to the girls hostel in DU. One of the first things I did was to learn self-defense. Never again.”

“But you came back.” His voice was careful and neutral.

“When my grandparents moved in with Chacha Chachi due to Dadi’s health issues I had to come back.”

He looked at her questioningly at the odd note in her voice. “Someone had to protect Lata and Suri.”

Shocked eyes met her cold blank ones.

“Grandfather didn’t slip and fall. He wanted to teach Lata a lesson and that’s when I chopped him one in the neck.”

Neither of them spoke until Lovely stood up. “I’ll go home now.”

Sonu looked up with a dazed expression. “Yes. Of course I’ll drop you.” Ignoring her protests, he scrabbled around on the table. She sighed and handed him the keys from where she had placed them. “Thanks.” He mumbled.

He didn’t speak on the way back. When he braked the car in front of her house, he roused himself as if from sleep. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head to clear the haze. “I…I…”

“Don’t worry.” Lovely’s lips twisted. “I got you cornered haven’t I? You promised to believe me but you can’t can you?” She swallowed. “Our grandfathers were best friends like you and Titu. I wonder if your grandfather would believe this ‘story’? Goodbye Sonu.” She got out of the car.

“Goodnight.” Sonu couldn’t say more than that.

***

Click here for the next Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions

 

SPF: Where Ever You Go

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Where Ever You Go

Words 201

“Got your tickets? Your ID, your…?” I fussed.

“Relax Mom! That’s the nth time you asked me that.”

“But I didn’t see you check anything even once!” I flared up.

“I have it with me.” He patted his pocket. “It’s not going to disappear…”

“You could check it just to humor me.” I was resentful.

“Like I could not go just to humor you?”

Hurt, I stared at him. “I never told you not to go!”

“Maybe not in so many words,” he admitted, “but your dark dire predictions…”

“I didn’t mean to discourage you.” I was stiff. “I was just trying to prepare you…”

“By scaring the life out of me?”

I looked around the room. “Doesn’t look like it.” I sniffed.

“Would you have been happy if I was?”

Ashamed I shook my head.

“Aww Mom,” He put his arm around me. “Don’t worry so much. Remember how worried you were when I went to boarding school?”

“I wasn’t worried then!” I protested. “I knew what was going to happen, where you were going, what you were going to eat, but now…”

“Even now you’ll know Mom. They’ve promised to do a live telecast of our life on Mars.”

***

Written for the Sunday Photo Fiction – a story in 200 words or less. Thanks to Alistair Forbes for hosting the challenge and the photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt, click here.

Friends Forever

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Photo (c) Fatima Fakier Deria

Friends Forever

Words 101

“Here comes Her Highness.” Trishna muttered as Sapna floated down to join them.

Sapna stuck out her tongue.

“Enjoy your last day as Queen,” Prakriti said maliciously.

“Excuse me?” Sapna frowned.

“Maya’s coming.” Trishna burst out. “With fresh gossip.”

Sapna flickered and then rallied. “She must be ancient!”

“Remember how vain she was of her looks?” Layla’s husky murmur was still a killer.

“A bad hair day saved her from the car crash.” Leena rued.

“I wonder if she has any hair left?” Trishna patted her flowing tresses.

“I can’t wait to see her as a doddering ghost.” Sapna said gleefully.

***

Written for the Friday Fictioneers – a story in 100 words or less. Thanks to Rochelle for hosting the challenge and Fatima Fakier Deria for the photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

PS. Any readers of Silver Streaks here? Or fans of IPK? This may be of interest to you (or at least I am hoping it will be!) 😉

Peepal in Spring

The Peepal tree or the Ficus religiosa (sacred fig) is a common tree and I seem to see one no matter where I go. Except when I want to photograph one 😦

But this time I got lucky or rather created a bit with some mix and match 😉

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Can you see the massive windblown and rather harassed looking tree in the background? That was taken just under 3 weeks ago.

20180325_094029.jpgAnd look at it now – it is as if it had never been bare.

20180324_100346.jpgI also managed to snap some lovely fresh colorful leaves growing at the roots of a massive dour staid Peepal 😀

And one more, simply because I couldn’t resist – purple leaves too! And to think I spent all my life around them. What on earth have I been doing all these years?!!!

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Sometimes,

a cleansing wash

is not enough

and one must

shed the old

and

start anew

 

SPF: A White Wedding

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A White Wedding

Words: 200

It was the most exciting Christmas ever, pretty much like her tenth birthday when she had got a puppy and a bicycle. And now after 25 years, her prayers had been answered with not one but two suitors.

“So Ryan or Dave?” Sheila asked.

“Dave is just a friend!” Fiona protested.

“Who loves you…”

“But I love Ryan,” Fiona wore a dreamy look. “I can’t believe that someone like Ryan could ever…”

“So you are grateful and overwhelmed with his attention?”

“I didn’t say that!”

“Seemed like it to me.” Sheila shrugged.

“Why do you say that?”

“Here you are at the ripe old age of 35, a self-made entrepreneur, no expectations of getting married ever, and in comes Ryan, the dashing handsome rake that you’ve always been warned about…”

“Yes I know!” groaned Fiona. “Dave is safe while Ryan is like skydiving. My brain says one thing and my heart another. It’s a tough call.”

“If you had to choose one, the puppy or the bike, what would you choose?”

“Mr. Pups for his unconditional love. The bike gave me a lot of grief. Even broke my leg.”

“Well, there’s your answer.”

 

“I do.” Fiona smiled mistily at Ryan.

 ***

Written for the Sunday photo fiction – a story in 200 words or less. Thanks to Alistair Forbes for hosting the challenge and and photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.